The thing that makes the Shoppers Optimum program so great is that there is an abundance of ways to maximize the points you earn on every transaction. If you study this page with great care you should have all the information you need to get a 50% return or more on your purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart.
20x Points Days
This is the staple of all the Shoppers Drug Mart promotions and by far the most popular. At least four times a year SDM will run what is usually a Saturday only promotion where you get 20 times the usual amount of points on everything you buy in the store that day as long as you spend more than a specified minimum amount, usually $50. The usual set of product exclusions apply, which is essentially any product that produces only a very small profit for the store. For this reason you have to be very careful if you are planning to purchase exactly $50 worth goods because even one excluded item, like milk in the Atlantic Provinces, can cause you to lose out on the 20x bonus. Here is an updated chart that shows your rate of return if you always shop on a 20x points day:
|Points Redeemed||Cash Value||Rate of Return|
Click to reveal the previous redemption levels before the July 1st, 2010 changes.
|Points Redeemed||Cash Value||Rate of Return|
Shoppers Drug Mart also runs referral events a few times a year where they notify their members via email that an event is coming up in the next week or two. From that point on, up until the day of the event, members are encouraged to sign themselves up for the event and then use referral emails or links to get other people that they know to sign up as well. Then, after all the referrals are sent and the day arrives, it becomes the responsibility of all those who are signed up to shop at SDM on the special date and spend a minimum amount of money on eligible products. There is usually some sort of bonus just for shopping yourself and you also get additional bonuses for each person you referred who also shops. Depending on the type of referral event it is, you may only get bonuses for people you refer directly or you may get a bonus for both direct and indirect referrals. The latter type of event is more a relic of the past than something that happens today but many still hold out hope that it will be resurrected someday.
Modern Referral Events
The most common referral events of today usually follow this format:
- You must spend a minimum of $20 on the specified day, or else you earn no points at all no matter how many people you referred.
- You only get points for those referrals that you refer directly.
- Your referrals must also spend $20 on the specified day for you to get a referral bonus for them.
- You get 5,000 bonus points on top of regular points earned for shopping yourself.
- You get an additional 5,000 bonus points for each of your referrals who also shops.
- The maximum number of total bonus points any one person can earn per event is 100,000.
Older Format Referral Events
The older format for referral events, although they varied slightly over time, roughly followed this format:
- You must spend a minimum of $50 on the specified day to earn points of any kind.
- You get points for referrals you refer directly AND indirectly up to a certain pyramid depth.
- Your direct and indirect referrals must also spend $50 for you to get a referral bonus for them.
- You get 20x the points for shopping yourself no matter what your referrals do.
- You get an additional 1,000 bonus points for each and every referral who also shops.
- The maximum number of total bonus points any one person can earn per event is 100,000.
While this older format may not seem immediately superiour, it truly was for one main reason. It was possible to form a straight line chain of people each referring the next person in line, instead of forming a spread out pyramid of people. This could be done with relative ease using a forum like RedFlagDeals.com or SmartCanucks.ca. At RedFlagDeals there was actually two wonderful members named Cyanne and Chococrazy who would volunteer their time and work around the clock to make sure an unbroken straight line chain of hundreds and hundreds of people was formed. This not only had the positive result of getting hundreds of indirect referrals for yourself with almost no work, but you were almost 100% guaranteed that all of your referrals would shop because people don't join a very purposeful chain like that if they aren't serious about what they are doing. On the other hand if you refer friends and family you have no guarantee that they will shop and it is a whole lot more work!
In the end this resulted in you getting 20,000 points from the 20x bonus, if you managed to spend the exact minimum of $50 to the penny, and an ADDITIONAL 100,000 points for your referrals, which was the capped maximum. This resulted in a grand total of 120,000 points credited to your Shoppers Optimum account which was, at the time, equivalent to $240 of free stuff at Shoppers Drug Mart when redeeming at the 75,000 point level. If redeeming on a Bonus Redemption Day then that amount increased even further to $320. Where else can you get $320 in free stuff, a whopping 640% return, for simply spending $50 on stuff that you probably needed anyway? Nowhere, that's where!
Unfortunately, things that are too good to be true either aren't true or don't last. In the deal hunting world, it's usually the latter. Shoppers Drug Mart obviously realized that even though we deal hunters weren't breaking any rules we were costing them a lot of money in points they weren't expecting to give away so easily. As a result they started changing the rules in a steadily downward progression:
- They put a maximum depth of 30 on indirect referrals making straight chains produce a maximum of 30,000 points per person.
- They later changed the maximum depth to 20 on indirect referrals.
- They stopped making bonus redemption days 20x point days as well and instead instituted a fixed bonus.
- Finally, they eliminated points earned from indirect referrals completely.
As it stands now it is still possible to team up with other forum users and form "groups" of 10 people who are all referred to sign up for the event by 1 trusted leader. This leader collects all the direct referral points from the members of their group and, once received in their own account, distributes them evenly amongst all group members. This results in nearly 10,000 total points for each group member, which is a far cry from the original 120,000 that used to be possible. 10,000 points for $20 is still not a bad return and it is worth the increased effort for some, but maybe not for others.
In late 2008, Shoppers Drug Mart launched a new program for the most loyal shoppers called "Optimum Plus". Being a plus member used to be very desirable because you would get an instant points refund when redeeming points at either the 40,000 or 75,000 points levels. At the 40,000 level you instantly got 5,000 points credited back to your account on the same receipt which you redeemed the points on and at the 75,000 level you got 10,000 back. Unfortunately, they removed this feature of Optimum Plus during the July 1st changes to the Shoppers Optimum program so now having plus status is much less desirable. Here is a short list of details about the program:
- You become a member of the Optimum Plus program by earning 15,000
10,000regular points during a given year, which means $1,500 $1,000in spending.
- You remain a member of the program until the end of the following year.
- If you continue to earn enough regular points every year, you will remain a member indefinitely.
- You get to take advantage of these program benefits:
The aforementioned points refund when redeeming your points at the two highest redemption levels.
- A special welcome package that contains a 20x the points coupon that can be used anytime and other useful things.
- Access to special offers and promotions only available to Optimum Plus members.
- The program is a bit ambiguous and the benefits change frequently, so it is impossible to list them all here.
Click to show the previous rate of return that was achievable when stacking 20x point days with Optimum Plus status before the July 1st, 2010 program changes:
|Points Redeemed||Cash Value||Rate of Return|
Prescriptions are another way to get quite a few extra points. If you get your prescriptions filled at Shoppers Drug Mart, then you will receive 10 points for every dollar you spend on prescription items no matter how much you actually pay out of pocket for the prescription. Therefore, if you have 80% or even 100% insurance to cover your prescription costs then you will be essentially getting points with little or no cost to you. One thing you do have to watch out for though is the actual cost of your prescriptions. Shoppers Drug Mart has a high margin on their prescriptions, like they often do with other items, so you may be able to get the same prescription for significantly cheaper at another pharmacy. I suggest calling around before committing to getting your prescriptions filled at SDM. You should also be aware that some provinces outlaw the awarding of points on prescriptions so you should find out if you reside in a province where that is the case.
20x Points on Over-The-Counter Insurable Prescriptions Items
Most prescription drugs must be processed using Shoppers Drug Mart 's official electronic prescription processing service as there are very strict rules on these types of drugs. Anything processed through electronic prescription processing at SDM is automatically awarded regular 1x optimum points and is ineligible for 20x point promotions. However, many over the counter medications and various medical supplies that can be prescribed by your doctor do not qualify as prescription drugs. These types of prescriptions are often still covered by your insurance company but because they are over the counter it is legitimate to purchase them as you would any other item at SDM. You can then get a hand-written receipt from your pharmacist indicating that they have been prescribed to you. This is adequate proof for the insurance company. Doing this makes your very expensive and insurance claimable purchases eligible for 20x point promotions. This can result in massive quantities of free or almost free points for you. Not only that, but by processing the claim manually you can put the entire purchase on your credit card and get whatever rewards are available for you there as well.
By way of personal example, I am a Type 1 Diabetic and I use a very expensive device known as an insulin pump to deliver life sustaining insulin to my blood stream. The supplies for this device are also insanely expensive and include the following: infusion sets that are inserted into my body to deliver the insulin (changed every 3 days), reservoirs for holding the insulin inside the insulin pump (changed every 3 days), and real time sensors for constantly monitoring my blood glucose levels (changed every 3-6 days but I don't usually wear them 24/7). On top of that I use a glucose monitor to do periodic spot checks of my glucose levels to make sure I'm not outside of the ideal range. These glucose monitors require the use of disposable test strips which cost nearly $1 each and I can use up to 8 of them per day. Take a look at the table below to see approximately what the monthly cost for these items is:
|Infusion Sets||Pack of 10||$235.00|
|Reservoirs||Pack of 10||$50.00|
|Real Time Sensors||3||$150|
As you can see this adds up to a lot of money every month and with my work insurance plan covering non-drug medical supplies at 100% I am able to earn 20x the points on every penny of that amount with no cost to me. This works out to 121,000 points per month or 1,452,000 points per year. If you take my
Optimum Plus membership into account and assume that I am able to always redeem my points on bonus redemption days at the highest level (unlikely) then those points would be worth a grand total of $3056.84 $4467.69 of free food and merchandise at Shoppers Drug Mart every year. Now that you've seen that high number, don't feel jealous that you aren't able to get the same reward because, trust me, you don't want to have Diabetes or any other disease that would cause you to have to purchase that amount of medical supplies. However, it is a nice and unexpected perk that comes along with a very bad thing.
As a final note on this matter, some people might think that this practice is somehow deceitful or exploitative in nature. I assure you that it is not. I had first heard of this method through a forum posting and it sounded too good to be true and I didn't want to exploit anyone so I shied away from it for a time. Then a few months thereafter my pharmacist actually called me personally to inform me of a 20x points day and that I could purchase my diabetes supplies on this day to get a lot of extra points. I have been doing it ever since and the pharmacist still calls me every now and then to let me know when a 20x points day is coming up, even though I'm usually already aware of the fact beforehand. If you can take advantage of this method, I would highly encourage you to do so by simply requesting a hand-written receipt and processing the claim with your insurer manually instead of automatically.
To make matters even sweeter, from time to time Shoppers Drug Mart offers a whole slew of different bonus point options that can be applied to the purchase of specific products, a specific brand, or a certain quantity of products that fall within a certain category. Many times these incentives are used to entice you to purchase high margin items by offering you relatively few points in return, but occasionally the bonuses are offered on necessary everyday products, low-margin products, or the bonus is so good that they are practically paying you to take the product off their shelves. There is more good news in that these products bonuses can usually, but not always, be combined with the points maximizing techniques already mentioned up until this point to increase your rate of return even further. Continue reading to see all of the various types of bonus points you have the opportunity to earn while shopping at SDM.
Individual Product Bonus Points
From week to week, Shoppers Drug Mart will usually tag individual products to have bonus points in their system. This is usually a set value of points like 500 or 1000 that will be awarded to you if you buy that particular product. Often times the requirements for getting the bonus points might be more complicated in that you have to purchase multiple quantities to receive the bonus so make sure to read the label or flyer carefully for any conditions. Frequently products tagged with bonuses are also simultaneously on sale, which can make it an even better deal.
As icing on the cake, this type of bonus is almost always compatible with 20x point events or when redeeming your points. A great way to stretch your points is to attempt to purchase products with high product bonus points while redeeming your points because you are essentially reducing the amount of points necessary to do a redemption. There was one instance I can recall where people where able to buy certain hair care products, redeem points to pay for the purchase, and actually earn more points back than they had actually spent resulting in a net points gain. Yes, that's right; they gave you FREE points for the privilege of taking products off their shelves for FREE. Insane! Needless to say, they sold out quickly.
Product Line Bonus Points
Similar to product bonus points, product line bonus points are when a whole suite of products has a bonus points offer attached to it. This type of bonus can actually occur in two very different formats. The first is identical to product bonus points, except that multiple products will qualify for the fixed bonus and when it says "Buy 2" or "Buy 3" to get the bonus you can mix and match products to make up this quantity. However, you have to be very vigilant when mixing and matching because, although it might seem obvious which products qualify, if it is programmed in their system differently than you interpret it then you may end up missing out on your bonus points. Be sure to check your receipt to make sure you were credited for all the bonus points you are entitled to. Also, don't expect the store cashiers or employees to know exactly how the promotion works because they aren't the ones who program these promotions into the system. You can certainly ask, but you won't always get a straight answer that is 100% factual. To succeed, sometimes you need to know their system better than they do.
This type of bonus is usually worded similar to:
"Buy $xx.xx worth of Brand X products and receive XXXX bonus points."
Instead of assigning a fixed amount of points to a particular product OR product line sometimes they will decide to assign a points multiplier. This is similar in concept to 20x or 15x point days, except that it is for a specific product, product line, or product group. In some cases there is a minimum amount you must spend on the products and in other cases you just need to buy a single product to qualify for the bonus. Also, sometimes the points will show up immediately on your receipt and other times they are delayed until a certain date. All of this is usually explained in the fine print of the weekly flyer.
Bonus Point Coupons
Much like regular coupons that you would use at your local grocery store, it is possible to obtain bonus point coupons that award you with extra Optimum points. Like most Shoppers Drug Mart points promotions, these coupons come in a variety of different formats, with a variety of conditions, and from a variety of sources. Overall though it must be said that they are quite scarce and you probably won't have the opportunity to use too many of them. In my opinion, the best type of coupons are the ones that award a fixed amount of bonus points because they can easily be combined with a points redemption to effectively reduce the amount of points redeemed. Other coupons, such as the 20x the points coupon for spending more than $50 that comes with the Optimum Plus welcome package, may also be stackable with a redemption but it is a whole lot less likely.
Here are some places that you should keep an eye out for bonus point coupons:
- Glow! Magazine - Shoppers Drug Mart's own magazine, which can be ordered for only 7,500
- Emails sent to you by signing up for promotions.
- Special emails from being an Optimum Plus member.
- Snail mail from being an Optimum Plus member.
- In the retail store itself.
- Included with the purchase of a specialty item, like the fragrance gift set at Christmas time.
- Printable coupons from the Shoppers Drug Mart website.
Bonus Points on Gift Cards
Bonus points on gift cards you say? I thought the terms and conditions say no points on electronic gift cards (with Shoppers Drug Mart branded gift cards being the exception)? Yes, this is true! 99.9% of the time you will get 0 points for purchasing gift cards at Shoppers Drug Mart unless you buy a Shoppers Drug Mart branded gift card first and then use it to purchase your electronic gift card. However, extremely rarely, they will run a promotion with varying terms that allows you to collect bonus points when buying select types of gift cards. For example, just recently they offered a promotion where if you purchase $75 worth of Esso, iTunes, KFC/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell, Foot Locker, or Nexon Game Card you get 7,000 bonus points. You heard right, 7,000 free points for essentially buying $75 worth of gas. At the time, that was worth $21.53 for an Optimum Plus member redeeming their points on a bonus redemption day, which amounted to a 28.7% discount on gas.
To make matters even better, for some reason when you buy bonus point gift cards not only get the bonus points but you also get regular points as well! I believe the reason for this is that to make this promotion work they have to turn off the switch in their system that prevents regular bonus points on gift cards. So that means during these promotions electronic gift cards essentially become eligible for regular points again until the end of the promotion. A word of caution though, I haven't confirmed if this still works since that amazing Esso gift card promotion, so they may have fixed the system since then.
There are a few problems you could run into when taking advantage of gift card bonus point promotions. First, if there is a minimum amount you need to spend to qualify for the bonus points and you want to be a lot more than that minimum amount, you will need to split your purchase into multiple transactions of exactly that amount to get the bonus more than once. So if the minimum was $75 and you wanted to buy $150 worth, you would need to do two $75 transactions.
Second, you may run into resistance trying to buy gift cards with a Shoppers Drug Mart branded gift card to get extra points. Doing this is valid and does work in their system but cashiers and managers mostly think it isn't possible and even if they know it is possible, they may still discourage it. You may want to avoid doing this if you want the least amount of hassle. Third, stores who have had many people taking advantage of such a promotion may attempt to enforce a policy where you can only buy one gift cards, do only one transaction, or not allow you to buy gift cards at all. In these cases they are essentially going against a valid Shoppers Drug Mart promotion and you can argue that fact while showing them the flyer. In the end, if they don't budge, your only option is to call the head office and report them or shop at another store in your area.
Fourth, when buying large sums of gift cards you may encounter cashiers or managers who will ask you to show ID when paying via credit card and treat you as if you are trying to steal from them. Most times simply showing them your ID, even though you aren't really obligated to do so, will get you past this no problem. Fifth and finally, if the promotion ends up being extremely popular and is listed on multiple deals sites, your store may be out of stock of the gift card you are looking for. Most stores have "gift card malls" where they have one or two large towers full of gift cards. Make sure you look at all the towers closely to make certain you didn't miss them at first glance. If you still don't see any, make sure you walk around the store as well as check right at the cash because many stores have gift cards in multiple locations. If you're still out of luck, you can actually try showing the employee the promotion and ask if they have any more gift cards in stock out back because I've read that some stores keep lots of card out back so they are ready to restock at any moment. However, this won't always be the case so your mileage may vary.
To sum up, you would be lucky to see the 7,000 point promotion happen even once per year and it is highly likely that it will never happen again. However, you can take advantage of lesser promotions like these that they have from time to time if you so choose.
ATM Machine Coupons [expired]
One of the best ways to get bonus points used to be from inserting your optimum card into the ATM machines that were located at a select few Shoppers Drug Mart stores across the country. There was only one store in my city that had such a machine and it received frequent visits from me. Yes, the machine was a normal ATM in that you could withdraw cash by using your bank card ... but who would do such a thing considering the large fees they often charge? The best thing about them though was that you didn't even need to insert your bank card to get the bonus coupons. All you had to do was walk up to the machine, insert your Optimum card, select the on screen option to receive optimum coupons, and then wait for your sheet of 3 different coupons with 3 different bar codes to be printed. You could repeat this process as many times as you wanted or until the machine ran out of paper but you would usually start getting all duplicates after the 4th or 5th time.
The coupons that came out were mostly product bonus point coupons. Some that I saw regularly were 500 points for paper towel, 500 points for buying fabric softener, 500 points for buying laundry soap, 1000 points for buying any natural health product, 1000 points for spending $10 on food products. The coupons were quite vague and open to much interpretation. For example, before I knew that "natural health product" really meant diet supplements, vitamins, and the like I used to use the 1000 point coupon to buy any so-called health food product including the entire line of "Organics" products that Shoppers Drug Mart has. This allowed me to buy a bag of chips or a box of crackers and get 1000 points for spending less than 2 dollars. The interpretation of these coupons was entirely up to the cashier as nothing was programmed into the system to verify the coupons at all. For instance the paper towel coupon would scan and give you points even if you didn't buy any paper towel. I think it was for the reasons that they eventually removed all the ATM machines from their stores nationwide. I remember one specific time when redeeming 75,000 points for $200 of free stuff that I was able to amass 14,000 bonus points by using these coupons and other bonus offers effectively reducing the amount of points redeemed to nearly 60,000. I've also heard reports of people doing even better than that!
Buying Gift Cards First
This is one of the easiest ways to earn a few extra points when shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart. Although most electronic gift cards are excluded when it comes to earning points for purchasing them, actual Shoppers Drug Mart gift cards are an exception. You won't earn 20x the points or anything like that when purchasing a gift card but you will earn the regular 1x points. This means that you can earn points both when purchasing the gift and when redeeming the card for merchandise. This effectively doubles the amount of regular points you will earn when buying any item at SDM.
It even allows you to earn points on items that are normally excluded like milk in the Atlantic Provinces and prescription medications in provinces where earning points on prescriptions is prohibited by law. Yes, you heard right, you can use this method when paying your portion of a prescription item or over the counter drug item. The pharmacist may look at you funny if you try to pay for your entire $1500 prescription with gift cards, which is why I personally don't do it for my large prescription purchases, but for the usual $20 to $100 prescription it is a great idea. So even though drugs are excluded from 20x point promotions, you can still effectively earn 2x points on prescription drugs using this method.
You don't have to stop there either! Every time you shop at Shoppers Drug Mart you might as well buy a gift card first and earn those extra points. Turn your 15x into 16x and your 20x into 21x! Many people actually keep an SDM gift card ready and loaded in their wallet so that they can easily pay for their purchases and just refill it with more money when it runs out. If you top of the gift card with your credit card you can earn credit card rewards on top of all the Optimum points as well or more Optimum points by using the Shopper's Optimum MasterCard. What's even better, purchasing gift cards counts towards your $1500
$1000 yearly purchase requirement to qualify for the Optimum Plus program. That means that instead of spending $1500 $1000 at SDM in 1 year to qualify you only really need to spend $750 $500. Most people can manage that with essential household items that go on sale for cheaper than your local Wal-Mart alone. Easy!
Shopper's Optimum Credit Card
If you are really a Shopper's Optimum junkie, there is an MBNA Shopper's Optimum MasterCard available that you can use to get even more Optimum points faster. This card doesn't offer the top level rewards of some of the best credit cards in Canada that I have listed, but it still offers decent rate of return and there is an added bonus when you use the card at a Shoppers Drug Mart Store. There is also a 15,000 point sign up bonus which works out to $26.84 in free merchandise when redeeming your points at the 95,000 point level.
Essentially the rate of return on your credit card spending works out to be 0.89% when redeeming your points at the 95,000
75,000 point level. An almost 1% return is pretty standard amongst rewards credit cards and anything above that is worth looking at. If you redeem your points on a bonus redemption day, your return increases to 1.05%. Further, if you use the card at a Shoppers Drug Mart store you will earn 15 points instead of 5 for using the card plus whatever other points you would normally earn using your optimum card. On the MBNA site they say 25 points but it is really just 15 points + the usual 10 points you get for using your optimum card. This triples your return bringing your maximum possible return to 3.15%. A return that high is quite good in the credit card world but since you will only be buying a finite amount of merchandise from Shoppers Drug Mart, it may not be worth it over whatever you consider to be the best credit card in your wallet.